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Nov 20

Charts – 14 November 2010

Posted on Saturday, November 20, 2010 by Paul in Music

To the surprise of a lot of people, this week’s number one is “The Only Girl In The World” by Rihanna, which hangs on for a second week.  So far as the record industry are concerned, this wasn’t really in the script.  The general assumption was that Take That would top the charts with ease.  But it turns out that the British really, really like that Rihanna record.

And so it’s a number 2 placing for “The Flood” by Take That.

For the benefit of the Americans out there, it’s worth recapping the story.  Take That were a five-piece boy band who were hugely popular in Britain, and pretty successful in the rest of Europe, in the first half of the 1990s.  With a core fanbase of teenage girls and a secondary fanbase of gay men (that’s not facetiousness, they started off playing the gay nightclub circuit), they updated the boy band format for a new generation and did it very, very well.  And while the group had been manufactured, they served largely as a vehicle for songs written by one of their members, Gary Barlow.

Take That imploded in the mid-nineties, when a drug-addled Robbie Williams walked out, and the rest of the group disbanded after finishing the promotion of their last album.  Williams and Barlow both launched solo careers, and defying all expectations, Robbie Williams turned out to be the successful one, with Barlow eventually retreating into songwriting and more or less disappearing from view.  (Mark Owen also put out a couple of solo albums, which weren’t too bad, in all honesty.)

In 2005, at around the time Robbie Williams’ solo career was going into decline, the other four got back together for a hugely successful reunion tour, and started recording new material.  Bucking expectations yet again, the band were met with good reviews and good sales and found themselves pretty much back on top, reinventing themselves as a quality adult mainstream pop act.

And now we reach the final chapter, as Robbie Williams returns to the fold to complete the original line-up.  With all the very public history here – Williams made no secret of how acrimonious the break-up was – the question is how you bring him back into the group without having his return overshadow the actual music.  Step one was the release last month of “Shame”, credited to Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams, which reached number 2, addresses their history directly, and comes with a Brokeback Mountain video.

That’s technically not a Take That single, though it might as well be.  It’s a bonus track on Robbie Williams’ greatest hits album.

“The Flood” is a proper Take That single, and it has to deal with the big reunion.  They’ve handled it well.  It’s a grower – once it gets going, it’s got a suitably bombastic feel, but lyrics opaque and enigmatic enough to avoid hitting the topic too directly.  The tongue-in-cheek video, on the other hand, goes for a metaphor so gloriously unsubtle (and takes it to such absurd lengths) that you’ve got to admire its sheer deadpan ridiculousness.  It’s their answer to “I can’t believe you’re still going.”

This is Take That’s 24th UK hit single (to add to all their various solo hits).  Nobody would have predicted it in 1992, but Take That are somehow growing old with dignity.

Last Sunday was also Remembrance Sunday – that’s roughly the UK’s equivalent of Veterans Day, Americans – prompting perhaps the oddest novelty single of all time.  You wouldn’t have thought that Remembrance Sunday lent itself to a charity record, other than some maudlin ballad.  But while it was never remotely in contention for number 1 (whatever you may have read in the lazier sections of the press), number 20 is a staggeringly high placing for “2 Minute Silence” by the Royal British Legion – which is more or less what it says.

There is, to be fair, a video.  In fact, this is arguably the clearest example to date of a video single qualifying for the singles chart on a technicality.  The video consists simply of assorted ex-servicemen and celebrities (ranging from the Prime Minister to the Saturdays, and it’s not often you can say that) looking at the camera in silence.  The video is not on YouTube, although if you search, you’ll find someone posting the video without the soundtrack.  Since it’s a charity single and the Legion presumably didn’t approve it being posted, I’ll leave you to look it out for yourselves, if you want.

Including the soundtrack as a separate file is, I believe, a technical necessity to make it eligible for the charts.  The “single” – which was dutifully played in full on Radio 1’s chart show – consists entirely of the ambient background noise for each shot.  Because the video opens with a caption and finishes with the last soldier walking off screen after the two minutes ends, the running time is actually 2:08.  I don’t believe they’re claiming it as a piece of music, which would defeat any attempt by John Cage’s estate to sue (and yes, believe it or not, they’ve tried before when people have claimed songwriting credits on silent tracks).  In any event, since the single consists of a compilation of different field-recorded silences with audible edits at irregular intervals, it’s not the same as 4’33” anyway.

While it’s difficult to track down any definitive answer, I’m fairly sure this gives “2 Minute Silence” the highest place ever achieved for a single containing no music whatsoever.  So far as I’m aware, that record was previously held by the 1995 single “Wibbling Rivalry”, credited to “Oas*s”, which was basically a recording of Noel and Liam Gallagher having an argument while being interviewed for the NME.  It peaked at 52.  As an honourable mention, there’s also Jasper Carrott’s 1975 double A-side “Funky Moped”/”Magic Roundabout”, which got to number 5 – the latter track is a recording of a monologue from his stand-up set, but “Funky Moped” is a novelty song, and therefore music, if only technically.  It is, however, definitely not funky, no matter how charitably extended your definition.  (1975 was also the year that the Goodies released “The Funky Gibbon”, which positively burns with authenticity by comparison.)

The other new entries from this week’s chart…

  • “Shine a Light” by McFly featuring Taio Cruz at number 4.  The former boy band’s eighteenth hit continues their curious attempt to ditch their surf-pop-with-training-wheels background and reinvent themselves as an electropop group – not without success, it has to be said.  The lyrics are from cliche central, but otherwise it’s perfectly decent.  Taio Cruz, a man to whom the words “No, I would not like to make a guest appearance on your new single” are but the strange babblings of a foreign tongue, picks up his eleventh hit, and his fourth this year.
  • “The Time (Dirty Bit)” by the Black Eyed Peas at number 11 – set to climb into the top ten on Sunday, if the midweeks are to be believed.  This is the lead single from their new album, but it apparently doesn’t have a video yet, which might explain the relatively slow start.  It’s basically the sort of dance record they churn out in Holland which clumsily splices in a chorus lifted from “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.  It’s fucking dreadful even by the Black Eyed Peas’ unexacting standards, but it gives them their fifteenth hit as a group.
  • “Gotta be Somebody” by Shayne Ward at number 12.  Shayne Ward was the X Factor winner in 2005, and while hardly a Leona Lewis, he’s done well enough to hold on to his record deal.  This is his first single since 2007, naturally released to tie in with the current X Factor series, and promoted on the results show.  It’s not especially memorable – Simon Cowell has always been better at promoting divas than regular pop music – and it’s going to vanish from the charts fairly swiftly, but hey, if they’d told him when he was auditioning that he’d get a middling to respectable five year career out of the show, he’d probably have thought that was a reasonable deal.
  • “Raise Your Glass” by Pink at number 13.  This is the bonus track from her greatest hits album, and it’s the usual theme: vaguely outsider rallying cry, which doesn’t quite convince me, but nice thought, I guess.  It’s her 24th hit in a career stretching back to 2000.
  • “Hold You” by Gyptian at number 16.  Gyptian is a dancehall singer who’s been around for five years in his native Jamaica.  This was a minor crossover hit in America earlier this year, and so the record company’s having a punt with it in Britain too.  It’s certainly a nice change of pace.
  • “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” by My Chemical Romance at number 31.  A surprisingly low placing for the lead single from MCR’s new album.  This is the one with Grant Morrison in the video, which sees the band dumping any remaining trace of emo in favour of embracing B-movies and general silliness.  It’s their eighth top 40 hit, the biggest of course being “Welcome To The Black Parade”, which spent a fortnight at number 1 in 2006.  Judging from the midweek, it doesn’t seem to be going any further.
  • “Your Song” by Ellie Goulding at number 39.  This is the soundtrack song to the latest John Lewis advert (it’s a department store, Americans), and it was rush-released towards the end of last week in response to demand.  It’s going to rocket up the chart on Sunday, it’s at four in the midweeks, and if the iTunes chart is to be believed, it’s in contention for number 1.  The original was Elton John’s debut hit in 1971, when it reached number 7.  John Lewis have form here – earlier this year, another of their adverts spawned Fyfe Dangerfield’s excellent cover of “She’s Always A Woman”, while last year’s Christmas advert resulted in a number 23 placing for the delightful lo-fi Taken By Trees version of “Sweet Child Of Mine”. This one seems to be in a different sales league, though, which surprises me, since I thought the earlier adverts were stronger.  It’s the fourth hit for Ellie Goulding, who was supposed to be this year’s Next Big Thing, but didn’t quite follow through – in a classic sign of overhype, her album entered at number 1, crashed to 16 the next week, and never really recovered.  Her biggest hit by a mile was “Starry Eyed” (number 4 in March), but this looks set to be bigger.  Britain’s feeling melancholy, I guess.

Bring on the comments

  1. I’ve not listened to it — and don’t intend to — but even the sycophantic Radio 1 DJs are complaining about the presence of that Black Eyed Peas record on the playlist, so it must be awful.

  2. yeah! ho! wah! says:

    despite being a little suspicious at the beginning, i really like goulding. her debut album turned out to be one of my favourites of the year so far. “your song” is quite disappointing, though. i hope shes gonna stick with the vaguely björkish dance-pop and not become another dido/kt tunstall/katie melua.

  3. AJ says:

    I shouldn’t be surprised that the Black Eyed Peas are responsible for that horrible song.

  4. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    I remember John Barrowman singing “Your Song” at Children In Need a while back, and my mum saying he had a good voice, but he wasn’t singing it right – apparently Elton sung it as if he was genuinely making it up as he went along (hence all the “then again” and “anyway” bits). I dread to think what she’s going to make of this, which is very … precise.

  5. Jonny K says:

    Listening to Goulding’s version, what stands out to me is that she doesn’t really seem to be singing it TO someone. It sounds like she’s showing off, making a performance, which makes claiming it’s “quite simple” not really ring true.

    But then you get into all sorts of meta-levels thinking about the appropriateness of someone singing it to people who all know it’s a cover.

  6. Charles RB says:

    “A surprisingly low placing for the lead single from MCR’s new album”

    The album itself is out next week, and the single has been out in America and the band’s YouTube channel (and everywhere else on YouTube) since late September. I think MCR/MCR’s UK people have just left it far too late to release it here.

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